After five games the Arizona Wildcats have already begun to establish their identity. There are many questions that have already been answered and a few that will still need to be worked out. Here’s a quick breakdown of where the team is sitting right now.
Shooting – Coming into the season there was never a moment that Arizona was mentioned without some dig at their expected shooting woes. So far, Arizona is only taking 27% of their shots from beyond the 3 point line, which is down from 37% from a year ago. That’s probably a great number to stick around for the year.
What also makes this great is that the shots taken from 3 are almost always quality looks, which is why Arizona’s 42% from 3 point range is actually quite high. That is up from 37% for last year’s very solid shooting squad.
Ball Distribution – Obviously McConnell’s 6.8apg is fantastic. Arizona hasn’t had a player average over 3.3apg during Miller’s tenure. And as a team, Arizona is making assisted field goals at a rate 10% over the national average. There is still room for improvement, but it’s great to see this unselfish, high level basketball so early in the season, especially coming from a young team.
Offensive Efficiency – As a team, Arizona is currently ranked 9th in total offensive efficiency according to kenpom.com. Additionally, each individual player is showing a fantastic overall offensive skill, which can be seen by the visual below. If Solomon Hill can be considered our best offensive player from a year ago, then all 7 main rotation players are currently operating at a higher clip.
Sure, there is a huge asterisk here since the opposition has been minimal, but I do think this gives a great indication of the team’s potential and the top to bottom talent. I’ve also included a reference of how the rest of the PAC-12 conference is doing in the young season. This line represents the average of any PAC-12 player playing over 15% of their team’s offensive possessions.
Defensive Efficiency – Arizona currently is a top 10 team in the following defensive stats; 2PT%, efficiency FG%, defensive rebounding, 1st half points, and is 19th in total defensive efficiency. Now imagine if the starters were actually in for a full game. The opposition hasn’t been outstanding, but this is something that will continue. This team is special on defense. There’s only one small area of improvement, which you can see below.
The Areas of Improvement
Creating Turnovers – Arizona has an unhealthy amount of players capable of being ball hawks and getting steals. The problem is they’re not. It’s not as if the team doesn’t take their opportunities, but if you would have told me that Arizona would be turning over opponents at a significantly lower rate than last year, I would never have believed you. And sure enough, Arizona is averaging 2 less steals per game than last year and 3 less total turn overs per game by opponents.
The focus on defense appears to be lock down first and force the issue second. However, the potential is just too high and Arizona’s ability to score in the open court off of turnovers is too appealing to not push for more risk/reward plays. On the year, Arizona has converted 73% of their steals into points.
Free Throws – Only shooting 64% from the free throw line is unacceptable. Miller’s Arizona teams have shot an average of 73% and with the nearly 9% increase in free throw rate across college basketball this year, Arizona needs to return to their elite level now more than ever. I think they will and this is just a low sample size, but this is certainly something to watch.
The good that we have seen from Arizona is extremely exciting and has potential to be a constant for the year. Arizona is lethal on both ends of the floor, which is a combination that can promise a high level of success. Even the concerns are fairly minimal and can be corrected. Even if they’re not, it is possible for this team to advance far. And if they are? Well the sky is the limit.